The White House Rural Council, in partnership with Project for Public Spaces and the National Main Street Center, has announced it will host The White House Convening on Rural Placemaking on November 17. The Convening will bring together federal, state and local public sector officials, national non-profit organizations, foundations, and individuals to discuss how federal, state, and philanthropic entities can support and leverage the power of placemaking–a citizen-led process that helps activate downtowns and community gathering places.
“Creating unique, vibrant communities where people feel a sense of pride and ownership is key to building robust and resilient economies in small towns across the country,” said Patrice Frey, president and CEO of the National Main Streets Center, Inc. “Placemaking, as a community-led strategy, has proven to be an affordable and effective way to achieve that. Its expansion to a broader number of communities is essential to the future of rural America.”
Many federal agencies and philanthropies oversee programs and offer technical guidance with the aim of improving the vitality of America’s rural communities. There is an excellent opportunity to use the resources more strategically to sustain and grow small town and rural Placemaking efforts that will help improve quality of life, economic resilience, and job opportunities.
“Many small town and rural American communities have lacked the kind of support and capacity that is vital for creating a place-led vision and plan,” said Fred Kent, President and Founder of Project for Public Spaces. “This is an exciting moment, as more and more disciplines and sectors are converging around the idea of place.”
The Convening will also afford an opportunity to examine ways the federal government and other philanthropies can make their resources more widely available to local communities. Currently, municipalities are often not aware of how to access funding resources and technical assistance, or how to fully leverage them. Through panel discussions, case study presentations, and smaller group breakout sessions, Convening participants will identify ways to more strategically grow and sustain rural placemaking efforts nationwide.
The National Main Street Center, Inc. (NMSC) is a membership-based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping communities across the country revitalize their historic downtowns and business districts, and create vibrant, people-centered places to live, work, and play. With the majority of its programs in rural areas, the NMSC network has generated over $60 billion in new investment since its founding in 1980, largely through low cost investments and technical assistance provided through State Main Street programs.
Project for Public Spaces' ongoing work with federal agencies shows how modest levels of support can make a dramatic difference in gaining community consensus and building momentum for change. A decade ago, with support from the Ford and Kellogg Foundations, we demonstrated how small grants to farmers markets can benefit both rural and urban communities. That program became a model for AMS’s Farmers Market Promotion Program, now a $13 million dollar per year initiative. Through current programs and partnerships such as Citizens Institute for Rural Design (with NEA), Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities (with EPA), and the Rural Livability Resource Center (with FHWA), PPS offers numerous workshops and resources to help rural communities find innovative solutions for generating place capital and local economic vitality.